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Dogs 'mimic movements of owners'

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Dogs "automatically imitate" the body movements of their owners, according to a study.

This automatic imitation is a crucial part of social learning in humans.
 
But Austrian researchers report that the phenomenon - where the sight of another's body movement causes the observer to move in the same way - is evident in many other animals.
 
They say that it reveals clues about how this type of learning evolved.
 
The study, which was led by Dr Friederike Range from the University of Vienna in Austria, also suggests that the way in which people interact with and play with their dogs as they are growing up shapes their ability to imitate.
 
"It's not a spontaneous thing," said Dr Range. "The dogs needed a lot of training to learn it."
 
She and her colleagues investigated this imitation with a series of trials using a simple door-opening test.
 
The team built a box with a sliding door on the front that could be opened with a knob.
 
The owners demonstrated how to open the door by using either their hand or their mouth.
 
"When the owners used the hand, the dog had to open the door with its paw to get a reward," Dr Range said.
 
When the owner opened the door with their mouth, the dog had to use the same technique.
 
Read the full story on the BBC website